We may meet, or we may never meet. I am an artist, mother, southerner, human being and… debtor. I’m also the keeper and scribe of The Book of Debts which, one Volume per location, will be filled, read from and burned as it travels the UK, starting in the Library of Birmingham this Thursday 17th (UN Poverty Eradication Day ), Friday 18th and Saturday 19th October, meeting its fiery end on Saturday 2 November at Minerva Works, Digbeth hosted by Fierce Festival. (see details below).
We can meet to talk in person. Or you can contribute to The Book of Debts online and I will only know you through your words.
With the Book in hand, pen ready and ears open, I offer you a conversation about debt you might not expect to have. We are all debtors on some level. Here is a moment to listen to the experiences of others, be heard, and speak about or describe the lived experiences, issues and hopes of those who inhabit the same city as you – and further afield too. The Book of Debts is open to anyone who finds it and wishes to contribute, whether debtor or creditor – past or present. The debt can be owed by you or to you. Or it may be owed to or by a third party – individual or institution. It may be financial, social, emotional, ecological or spiritual – or all of the above. All contributions are anonymous and you can add as many debts as you like, one by one.
So, what do you think about when you think about debt ? Money, time, love, attention?
Shame, denial, regret, anger, injustice ? Love, community, compassion, forgiveness? Who owes what to whom? Do all debts have to be repaid? How responsible are we for what we, our family, community or nation owe? So far I have collected, recited and burned around £3.6 billion of unpaid financial debt, spanning unpaid corporate taxes, student loans, credit card bills and defaulted mortgages. But debt is a broader than finance. And there is no debt without story. Some of the immeasurable debts I have collected are tales of unrequited love, political repression, ecological damage, family feuds and missed opportunities. Sometimes they are a single word, name or figure of money. I have put many of my own debts into the book and if you want to know why and how I am doing this project, you can read my blog and find out.
I’ll be on the streets, in communities (some slots still open to invitation so do contact us if interested) and in the Library of Birmingham, beginning this Thursday October 17th 3-6pm in the ground-level foyer somewhere. I’ll also be there Friday 18th October (3-6pm) and Saturday 19th October (11-1pm) and Thursday 24th October (3-6pm). Come sit with me for 15 minutes – you can listen to existing debts and their stories from The Book of Debts (including my own) and – if you wish – you can tell me your own – or call another to account – and I will scribe it to the book.
Or you can browse existing contributions and add your own to reach The Book in absolute anonymity via www.burningthebooks.co.uk/contribute now or at anytime before Saturday 2 November, 3pm. The Book of Debts will then be recited in public and burned in a symbolic act of ritual destruction, at 5.30 – 7.00pm Minerva Works, Digbeth.
Please share with anyone who might find this interesting. All events are free.
#burningthebooks to follow me around the city or follow on facebook.
Supported by Arts Council England, Fierce Festival and the Library of Birmingham
Touring producer, community and press contact: Elizabeth Lynch
Burning the Books, in the words of one of the first contributors – is ‘a free public service’ for anyone who wishes to use it. It is an imaginary form of debt relief which all are welcome to be part of. It aims to challenge the social stigma around debt and also consider the alternative economies that communities are turning to as the mainstream economy is drying up for so many of us.